Beneath the Surface with William Volk

Beneath the Surface with William Volk

tip of the iceberg

Even if you believe you are just in gaming for the fun, you will come across all types of issues that can seriously affect the gaming industry in one way or another. Often we are too busy fighting against one another to really have a discussion about them, but as gamers get older their concerns grow as does their willingness to talk about them.

A few years ago I started an editorial series where I asked people in the gaming industry a question, some were more general like, What Game would you Teach your Child and some more topical based on current topics of note such as, Should the Government take steps to keep violent video games out of the hands of Children.

The responses and feedback from the gaming community was great and we found ourselves asking similar questions during our podcasts. With the launch of our different shows we wanted one where we could talk about important topics and not just skim along the top, but go beneath the surface to understand why this is happening, the effect of it and what, if anything, could we do about it. We wanted to cover current issues such as Downloadable Content and Free 2 Play games and current headlines such as the news about Warner Bros and  Arkham Origins.

Today we are proud to feature the first episode of Beneath the Surface where we talk one on one with professionals within the gaming and computer industry. For our first episode we sat down with the brilliant and talented William Volk, COO of PlayScreen.

We began with Free 2 Play games and the effect it has had and will have on the gaming industry. His vast knowledge of the mobile gaming market was fascinating and learning about the different markets across the world and how gambling with real money is legal and booming in the U.K. was intriguing.

We also had fun talking about current games and topics that have been in the news such as the Flappy Bird rollout, disappearance and rise of clones and of course the Candy Crush Sage and the counterattack by indie developers. Of course we talked about PlayScreen and all the games they offer on the mobile platform and we discovered his love of the game, The Last of Us and one of the bestselling mobile games, Puzzle & Dragons.

Overall it was a fun, interesting and informative discussion. I hope you will check it out and let you know what you think. Thanks to Mr. Volk for another great discussion. Stay tuned for the next episode and if you have any idea for topic or guests or would like to be a guest yourself, feel free to contact us.

You can view the show on the official show page.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Format- GBC

Genre- 2D Platformer

With this and Sylvester & Tweety: Breakfast On The Run (GBC), as well as Tweety & The Magic Gems (GBA), the little yellow bird has a portable trilogy of sorts. Shame that all three games are of the bland and unmemorable variety.

This is probably the most traditional of all three though, or so it would seem at first. Solely focused on 2D platforming, you explore many stereotypical (yet nice looking), levels as Tweety, the annoying bird.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Instead of being a typical A to B adventure though, you have to collect paw prints from eight cats in each level.

To do this you can’t just walk up to them and get the prints though, oh no – you have to take them down with weapons you pick up throughout the stages. There’s nothing too violent in terms of you arsenal though – just plunger torpedos, slippery jam (?) and the like.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

Levels are therefore structured a little more expansively than in most platformers, and you have to check out both the higher and lower reaches of every level to find all the pesky felines.

Controls are solid enough, with jumping allocated to A and using weapons (which you can cycle through with select) set to the B button.

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

As you’re a bird however, your jump is a little higher than most, and you can stay in mid-air by mashing the button frantically.

The open level structure of the game is both a blessing and a curse though.

On the plus side, it’s slightly different to the swathes of identikit platformers on the GBC, and could be called a refreshing change of pace to the norm…

Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure

…if it wasn’t so clunky and dull. Unfortunately, levels settle into a very repetitive rut very quickly, despite the developers best efforts to conjure up a variety of different looking landscapes.

The lack of any punishment for dying also doesn’t help matters. Taking three hits simply sends you back to the last checkpoint you touched, and you don’t lose any of the paw prints at all.

Sure, this cuts down on frustration, but it also blunts any significant risk element the game may have had.

What you’re left with is a rather nice looking 2D collectathon, but nothing that’ll have you surging with unadulterated adrenaline.

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2

So why did I picked the second one? It’s only because it’s the only one I can play at the moment. The rest of them are in storage. The game is quite fun and odd at times. The point of it is simple, Bugs Bunny’s girlfriend has been kidnapped and it’s being held captive at this castle. It’s only up to Bugs to save her if he wants to get laid so the quest starts! The object of the game is very simple, I mean any idiot can figure it out that you have to collect keys in order to open the master door. You can also use items in order to beat your enemies down although I suggest you know how to use them efficiently so that you won’t run into a one on one without any items to defend you. You will encounter other interesting twists in this game as I’ll go over them as we move along.

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2
The gameplay is quite demanding at times because you have to figure things out fast if you don’t want to be killed by your enemies which for some reason used to be your buddies in the cartoon at least! You will encounter the Rooster, big headed bird, Sylvester, among others. There are also some freakshows from other series or probably made up. Overall, you have to be careful with everyone! They mean harm! Furthermore, the game offers a variety of ways to kill them. You can either blow them up with a terrorist bomb or shoot them with a bow and arrow through the heart, it’ll depend on the level which weapons are available. You can also pick up a hammer to break bricks that get in your way. Amazingly you can’t use this item as a weapon to break your enemies’ head open….go figure! The game also has this mega lighting bolt that destroys everything on screen. That’s Bugs’ most powerful weapon!

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2
The graphics of the game are quite good. Things look how they are supposed to look and you won’t run into objects you think are part of the background. Even people with vision problems like myself were able to detect the scenery quite successfully. Even the enemies look how they are supposed to look and that’s a very well done task by the developers. I do have to mention that the big headed bird Tweety was made bigger than its size but that’s understandable as you are playing a portable game and won’t recognize him if you see him…Speaking of which…Tweety is a him? I found that out not too long ago and I’m in shock! SHOCK!! The music is repetitive but what can you expect for a puzzle game. You have a couple of tunes and that’s it! I don’t see people saying the same for Tetris but then again Tetris music kicks ass. If you do have a problem with the music then just mute it and play your wonderful emo music for all I care.

Overall, you have a very solid game that can bring you hours and hours of fun. With a nice password system that won’t make you write down a billion phrases and then get it wrong, you can’t go wrong with this one. Be sure to check out the other games in the series and try to look for them online as they are quite affordable. If everything else fails, just download the rom! Until next week!

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose

Tiny Toon Adventures

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose

This game took everything that the previous games did well and took it to another level. An amazing game and a true pick of the week is Tiny Toons -Buster Busts Loose-. The game is mainly a series of shows that you play through as an actor. You will find yourself in different levels such as the Acme Academy or a haunted house. The gameplay is quite entertaining as you can make Buster run by pressing the L or R buttons on your controller. Be careful when using this technique as if you do it in the wrong place, the consequences will be deadly!

Tiny Toon Adventures

The graphics of the game are quite good. They match scenes from the cartoon and are well made. Konami made sure you were playing a Tiny Toons atmosphere kind of game. All the characters look how they are supposed to look and the scenes are a joy to watch. With such a colorful and vivid game, there is nothing to hate about it. The sound is another winner as you will be familiarized with tunes related to the cartoon. Not only that but some remixes of them are quite inspiring and brings you to the moment of the game you are actually playing. There is no way you should play this game on mute! Just sit back and enjoy the tunes!

Tiny Toon Adventures

The game showcases the usual Konami bad ass options as you’ll only get the true ending by beating the game in hard. Konami used to do this to all of their hit games back in the day to make sure you lived up to their expectations. This game can be quite tough especially in stage five but you’ll be able to go through with enough practice and patience. After all, it’s just another one of those fun games that can stay quite fun even at its hardest moments.

OG Staff playing the game!

Man of Steel: Candid Photos

Man of Steel - Movie Photos

Check out these shots from the set of the upcoming Man of Steel movie. You get a look at the new Superman costume that is missing the red trunks. We also get a look at the Kryptonian villainess, Faora.

Man of Steel - Movie PhotosMan of Steel - Movie Photos

So what do you think of the new look?

Anne Hathaway CATWOMAN Photo

Anne-Hathaway-Catwoman-Costume

Our picture of the day comes from Warner Bros upcoming Batman movie, the Dark Knight Rises. The picture shows Anne Hathaway in her Catwoman costume riding Batman’s tumbler. Now WB calls this photo Selina Kyle which could mean the full catwoman suit was not revealed here. As more images are released we will let you know.

Dark Knight Rises: Batman and Bane Photo’s

Dark Night Rises - Bane Photos

The buzz is all over the internet after the release of these images of Batman and Bane during an outdoor shoot in Pittsburgh. In the images, we get to see Tom Hardy as Bane fighting it out with Christian Bale as Batman.

Dark Night Rises - Bane PhotosDark Night Rises - Bane PhotosDark Night Rises - Bane PhotosDark Night Rises - Bane Photos

The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

the_dark_knight_rises

After a ton of bootleg versions quickly removed by Waner Bros the official teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is out. This is set to be the last movie in the series by director Christopher Nolan and is set to hit theaters in the summer of 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises swill star Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, the film is scheduled for release on July 20, 2012.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry

Do you feel lucky, well do you, punk? The fans waiting for the Dirty Harry videogame to be released for both the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360 don’t because it actually looked like a really good game. Dirty Harry was developed by The Collective Inc and was to be published by Warner Bros Interactive.

Dirty Harry Game

Clint Eastwood himself was set to reprise his role as Harry Callahan giving authentic voiceover work for the game. As for the story, the game would take place between the first and second Dirty Harry movies and would focus on Harry tracking down a serial killer named Scorpio. The game also hoped to bring more depth to the character with side stories and character development.

As for gameplay, think Grand Thief Auto or a spin-off like The Godfather. Harry would have free roam of San Francisco and would take on missions and fight street crime. While there was no gameplay footage ever shown there was to be an AI for the crooks and cops meaning Harry could walk the line between good cop and psychopath and depending on what he did both sides would treat him differently.

Warner Bros did release a trailer and while it looks like there is gameplay within there is not. What WB did was have the character models sent to an animator to simulate what it would look like. Also, Clint never recorded any voices for the game so what you hear is directly from the original movie.

The game never made the light of day and it is not clear exactly why. We do know there were issues between The Collective and Warner and the ship was sunk. There was word a new Dirty Harry game was to be released, but no word as of yet. However, you can check out the classic Dirty Harry game if you need a fix.

 

 

Some movie studios to skip Comic-Con

Comic_Con

You ever get the feeling that some companies just want you to show up, clap and then shut up and go home? The New York Times reported recently that movie studios Warner Bros., Disney, Dreamworks and The Weinstein Company are call skipping Comic-Con this year. Why might you ask, well some of the reasons include cost and time, but one of the main reasons is they are afraid of bad press.

We all know the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Well it seems many of these studios see us all just like that. They worry that a bad review or buzz could sink their ship before it even launches. Even Marvel Studios is on the fence about coming to Comic-Con even though The Avengers is set to launch next year.

Many in the industry describe Comic-Con as “treacherous” and movies like, The Dark Knight did well even without a panel at the show so the thinking is they can get away with it. In addition, they hope some of us will do the buzzing for them.

This makes me think about my recent trip to E3. We were asked to be in the audience for the Jimmy Kimmel show. I found it strange that someone for that show would approach us on the street, but we went and it was legit. However, it was a glorified clip show with no guest and even Jimmy looked disinterested, but they sure made the point to make sure we clapped and screamed like we were having the time of our lives. They baited us with the chance to win money, but I knew we would not win and when we did not we were given potatoes and asked to clap and cheer as if we won the lottery. It was quite sad and embarrassing, but all that mattered to them was that on television it looked and sounded like we were happy.

It is true some of us can be hard on movies or dump on them because it is the cool thing to do. However, if you expect us to shell out our hard-earned cash you could at least do the same. We do not want potatoes or a half-assed showing. Give us something to cheer and write about and if there is criticism to be had then so be it. Simply put, if you feel you do not have to show up for the fans then we feel we should not have to show up for you.

 

Booster Gold and Blue Beetle on Smallville

Booster-Gold-and-Blue-Beetle-Smallville-Screenshot-1

The final season of Smallvillie is bringing in more DC fan favorites and the next upcoming episode will feature none other than the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. With Lois, perfecting Clarks bumbling fool routine Booster Gold arrives in Metropolis from the future and begins saving people and posing for pictures quickly becoming a fan favorite. Meanwhile, an alien suit of armor crash lands on earth and becomes infused with a young teen who tries and fails to control it and it is up to Clark and Booster to save him.

I personally like what they did with the Booster Gold costume. I understand people hate the “biker jacket” costume style, but I guess they really rather go that route than something like spandex or tight leather. Blue Beetles costume on the other hand has a mix of cool and cheese looking. In the clip below it looks pretty good, but in some of the pictures, not so much so.

I guess we can all decide once the show premiers, for now check out these shots from the CW.

Booster-Gold-and-Blue-Beetle-Smallville-ScreenshotBooster-Gold-and-Blue-Beetle-Smallville-ScreenshotBooster-Gold-and-Blue-Beetle-Smallville-Screenshot

New Thundercats Trailer

NewThundercats

Yes ThunderCats fans a new cartoon is in the works by Warner Bros and will be premiering in July on the Cartoon Network. Newsarama recently featured an article from a Thundercats panel at Wondercon 2011.

Check out the article here.

We know there will be some retuning of character and story, but the team behind the new series promises to keep true to the story and keep the classic fans in mind.

Check out the new trailer for the upcoming show.

Justice League Movie by 2013?

justice-league

We have heard the talk about a Justice League movie for a while now and through Warner Bros, have always said that a movie would be forthcoming we as fans all wondered if and when such a movie would take place. Recently, in an interview with the Los Angeles Time, Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. motion pictures said that a JL film was a “first priority” for the studio.

What does this mean, well the current information according to the interview is that a script is already being worked on for a JL film and they expect a movie to hit theaters sometime in 2013. We already know there are scripts for a Wonder Woman and Flash movie. We also know that with Christopher Nolan stepping away from the Dark Knight series after The Dark Knight Rises that there may be a reboot for the franchise. Finally, we know a new Superman movie is in the works, so like Marvel, DC is bringing out all their solo projects before the massive undertaking of a Justice League movie.

How will it turn out, we will have to wait and see.

DC Nation: Cartoon Network

 

DC-Nation

If you have not had the chance to check out the new Young Justice cartoon on Cartoon Network you should and it looks as if DC will soon be bringing much more to the network of cartoons with their new DC Nation programing block.

For those that do not know DC Nation is the name DC Comics uses for the convention panels and their promotional column on the back pages of their comic, the question is, what will DC nation look like on television?

Here is what DC themselves had to say:

DC Nation: A multi-platform, branded block of original programming and exclusive content based on the DC Comics library of legendary character properties, DC Nation is developed in partnership with Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. The all-new venture will harness the publishing, theatrical and television assets together for one powerful on-air block on Cartoon Network with exclusive online content.

What does that exactly mean, well, we don’t know. Here is what Newsarama said:

Best guess is that it’ll mostly been previously released animation panel combined with newly produced content promoting DC movies and comics. A weekly dose of Dan DiDio? Is the television world ready? We’ll see.

Perhaps along with original programing they will bring back the DC universe cartoons that resided on their sister network Boomerang such as Batman: The Animated series, Superman and Justice League. Either way it should be a good time for DC Comic fans and with the new Green Lantern animated series coming in late 2011 it looks as if DC is making a home on the CN.

DC Nation block is set to come to Cartoon Network in 2012.

 

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent

Kevin Costner - Pa Kent

The Hollywood Reporter first reported that the upcoming Superman movie will feature Kevin Costner in the roll of Superman’s dad. The latest movie being made by Warner Bros. and Legendary pictures will also feature Henry Cavill playing Clark Kent/Superman and Diane Lane who will be playing the role of Martha Kent.

 

What went wrong with The Matrix Online

The Matrix Online
The Matrix Online

SOE has closed the door on The Matrix Online for a while now and most likely deleted all records of its existence from its database. Normally I would not bother talking about a game that is no longer in existence, but Matrix was different. It was not that I thought the movies were a cinematic masterpiece, but I loved them for what they were. I did not get into debates about the differences between Matrix 1, 2 & 3 choosing to walk away knowing I enjoyed the series. So when I heard about an online game I figured it should be fun because how could you mess up a game with kung-fu, computer hacking and cool shades?

Mission Failure

The Matrix Online
The Matrix Online

When games like Everquest came out many of had to learn that when creating an MMO you had to expect a lot of fixes and patches during the first few months of a game. However, once you have a good number of titles released and you are calling yourself a MMO conglomerate you would think you would be able to release games with less and less bugs and flaws at release. While this is not specific to Matrix Online they were pretty bad at release with the bugs, worse yet, months later many where still there.

One particular place where bugs seriously irked the player base was in missions. One of the most frustrating bugs was found in rescue missions where you would find the guy only to be attacked by agents. You would think you could run with the guy to the exit, but no. He or she would wait until you killed every agent before following you. It gets worse. Sometimes even after you killed every agent the NPC would not recognize that you had done so and so he or she would never move and your mission failed.

In other missions you would be sent into areas with NPC’s who could one shot you. It seems either your mission NPC’s thought you were the next Neo or mistakenly thought you slept with his virtual wife and wanted revenge. Either way a simple mission would turn into Saving Private Ryan as you were thrown deep into the shit.

A kick to the face

The Matrix Online facekick
The Matrix Online facekick

I was playing City of Heroes at the time I came across this game and I noticed it had something in common with it, no real content. I wished it also had something else in common with it, the combat system. Sadly, it did not.

Matrix Online had two types of combat, ranged, with weapons or hacking (magic) or close quarters combat. Personally, I played because I wanted to do some cool kung-fu moves and the way the hacking animation and graphics looked I did not want to shoot that crap out of my hands because it looked way to stupid.

So close quarters it was. MO used a system called interlock. When engaged, you are linked to your opponent with the battle arranged into rounds like rolls of the dice in D&D. In each round you and your opponent decide which attack you’re using for that period, after which the statistics of each are compared, a random element added and somebody wins, damaging the loser. This was done so you could see counters and blocks and all those cool choreographed moved you saw in the movies, but, just like the missions, it was buggy and flawed.

First off sometimes the interlock did not work correctly and you ended up facing away from each other but still performing the moves. This looks especially silly if you were jumping off a building. Another, more upsetting flaw, was that if you were fighting more than one NPC at a time you could be blasted from range unable to do anything because you were locked in close combat with your interlocked opponent.

Now you could disengage but this took Inner Strength (mana) and some moves could prevent you from using the escape option. So not only did it take time to try and escape, it could be blocked and there was also a lag when you did escape. When this occurred you could either be spun around or get re-interlocked by one of the ranged mobs. This led to a ton of frustration a lots and lots of death.

The human factor

Christine Carkner
Christine Carkner

While not plagued with hacks and bots and cheats like Aion, Matrix Online had its share of community leaches which helped to make the playing experience less than enjoyable. Early on there was a leveling bug which allowed many players to outpace the server level by a mile. There were also bugged missions which you could exploit and places on the map where you could trap a NPC or a fellow player.

When SOE took over the ship had already sailed. Developers were dropping left and right. Though they had a small strong community the word from above was that the game would soon be shut down permanently.

I did not play MO too much because it just did not live up to the lowest standards I gave MMO’s at the time. Strangely enough there were a good number of people upset to see the game go, but like television shows, a small group of loyal fans normally cannot save a failing product. One would have hopped that if anything other MMO developers would have learned from MO, but as we have seen with games like Warhammer, Conan and Aion, any lesson has fallen on deaf ears.